- Hungry Harvest, an “ugly” produce delivery service, is expanding its operations to 30 more cities within the next four years. Hungry Harvest currently exists in its hometown of Baltimore, as well as Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Miami, Detroit and Raleigh, North Carolina. The company’s expansion will target markets in the South, Northeast, Midwest and Texas, according to The Packer.
- The produce Hungry Harvest uses has been deemed “off-spec” for a variety of reasons, including surplus, failure to meet strict retail standards, arrival in the wrong size containers and more. “There are a number of different reasons why produce gets rejected for reasons other than quality,” CEO Evan Lutz told the publication.
- The company's expansion criteria include consumer demand and the number of farmers, wholesalers and other potential partners in the area, as well as what impact the service could have on alleviating food waste and hunger. Lutz told the Packer that “tens of thousands of people” are currently on a waiting list to order its produce boxes.
That Hungry Harvest is targeting 30 additional cities less than a year after its launch shows that demand for the service and the company’s values — waste reduction and more accessible produce — may be gaining traction in the U.S. The news comes at the heels of an April announcement by San Francisco-based Imperfect Produce, which works on a subscription box service model, that it will expand to the Midwest.
Though the "ugly produce movement" has found some success in Europe, it is still a fairly new concept in the U.S. In 2016 both Whole Foods and Walmart began testing selling previously undesirable fruits and veggies in select markets. Start-ups like Imperfect Produce and Misfits Produce, whose line is found in local stores, have been slowly cropping up across the country to offer consumers a taste of their imperfect produce. American consumers, however, have been trained to “eat with their eyes” for decades and overcoming those instincts will take time, ubiquity and education.
A potential sign of positive growth by Hungry Harvest and similar initiatives is support from the millennial demographic, who are not only more aware of sustainability issues but also more willing to support companies that promote environmental stewardship.
If successful, Hungry Harvest could leverage the growth to create partnerships similar to Hy-Vee’s partnership with Robinson Fresh’s Misfits or Whole Foods with Imperfect Produce. Grocers could, in turn, be aggressive in educating the public, from dedicated displays to storytelling and providing sustainability information. Informative marketing barrage has been cited as one reason behind the success of some of Europe’s programs and could more quickly help U.S. consumers get past their cosmetic concerns.